Seattle, WA – A former Teamster who defrauded the union pension program as well as state and federal disability programs, was recently sentenced in U.S. District Court in Seattle to one year in prison, three years of supervised release and more than $295,000 in restitution, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. Richard Stalkfleet, 66, of Stanwood, Washington collected disability benefits for eight years, even while he was running a wood chip distribution company that earned more than half a million dollars annually. Stalkfleet put the business in his stepson’s name to try to hide his participation while he collected Teamsters Union Pension benefits, Washington State Labor and Industries Disability benefits and Social Security Disability benefits of $3,000 per month. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez said, “he victimized programs specifically designed to help the most needy. . . the very programs that don’t have sufficient funds to help the disabled.”
According to records filed in the case, Stalkfleet started a business known as Stalkfleet Farms in approximately 2000 and put the business in his stepson’s name. The company collected wood shavings from lumber mills and distributed them to dairy farms for use in barns. The company was quite profitable. Between November 2004 and November 2011, Stalkfleet Farms averaged monthly revenues of $43,000 and annual revenues of $516,000. The profits went right into Stalkfleet’s bank account. At the same time as he was running the successful business, Stalkfleet claimed to be disabled and unable to work since 2002, claiming his only daily activities consisted of eating, having coffee, playing with his dog, and doing “a little housework.” Due to these fraudulent claims, he collected a total of approximately $3,000 a month from the Teamsters Pension Trust, Social Security Administration and Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.
Stalkfleet fraudulently collected disability benefits between November 2004 and January 2013. As a result of his fraudulent claims, he collected $134,883 in Workers Compensation benefits, $91,831 in SSA benefits, and $69,188 in Teamsters Pension Plan benefits for a total loss of $295,902. The fraud was uncovered in 2011 when Stalkfleet had a falling out with his stepson and the stepson’s wife. L&I investigators conducted surveillance of Stalkfleet Farms and quickly confirmed that Stalkfleet was working there and driving Stalkfleet Farms trucks. Investigators interviewed more than 10 of Stalkfleet Farms’s customers. All of them thought of Richard Stalkfleet as the business’s true owner and their point of contact.
In asking for a prison sentence, prosecutors highlighted the length of the fraud and the fact that Stalkfleet was not struggling financially, while he took advantage of programs that are essential for the disabled. “Each of the programs defendant defrauded is a pool of limited resources intended to support disabled workers who cannot support themselves. But over the same years defendant took in millions of dollars in business revenues at Stalkfleet Farms, he drained almost $300,000 set aside for those unable to work,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.
The case was investigated by the Social Security Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG) and was prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Seth Wilkinson. Mr. Wilkinson prosecutes Social Security fraud cases in federal court as part of a partnership between the United States Attorney’s Office and the Social Security Administration Office of the General Counsel.